Frankly, as semester one comes to a close, I am exhausted.
This doesn’t take away from the great sense of joy I have in working along side my Communications Technology students as they work to produce a mosaic of short films that range all genres and aesthetics. With the grade tens working on monologue shorts that promote shaping narrative strictly through a combination visual and voice over to senior students in grade eleven and twelve developing narrative shorts – building their craft in shaping dialogue scenes through a combination of master and coverage along with effective picture and sound editing, the journey we’re on comes with some high stakes.
The stakes? Big Screen. Big Sound. Big Experience.
Not just for marks, the students from the onset of the semester have the immediate understanding that their creative work in the class is produced for an audience; an annual end of year showcase that takes over our local multiplex from the concession area being transformed into a print media gallery to original short films projected on the big screen, the journey leads to students benefiting from a truly experiential experience – going beyond the walls of the school and into the community with meaning and purpose.
Specifically, in regards to the films being made, the art of the movies speaks to the shared experience of coming together, listening, watching and understanding a specific point-of-view. The true culmination for learning is not this “ISU” or exam but the annual community showcase that is grounded in recognizing that “assessment is learning.”
Now, why the exhaustion? It’s simple: For Descriptive Feedback to be meaningful, the process must be all immersive.
For students to grow within such deep learning (the process from development to production ) of these films takes nearly 5 weeks, I must be deeply hands on. This means actively demonstrating a true belief that “assessment is learning.” Assessment is not about the end but rather the journey.
As students work, I work along side them. The feedback is provided consistently; from sitting with students during development and provoking a discourse to read and reshape treatments and screenplays before the submission of their “final” developmental proposal to viewing “dailies” and providing notes for improvement and encouraging (and insisting upon) reshoots, to editing along side students to ensure they have constructed the most effective scene possible (and to revise the script, re-shoot and revise the edit where needed), the experience is shared with the ultimate goal being for each student to find their success. Throughout this process, there is not such thing as failure. Its all learning and doing.
Ultimately, Descriptive Feedback means that as a teacher I’m doing; and if done with some resemblance of authority, the exhaustion should be deep and I should be bed ready by the end of the day. It’s thrilling really: From the moment I arrive , through my prep and lunch, I’m all in and wouldn’t have it any other way.
For my students, my most sincere hope is that this journey has ignited confidence , autonomy, resilience and a pride in the work they’ve accomplished together. Production is not easy – its a collaborative process that is challenging, tests friendships, relies on self-directness, heightens critical literacy and promotes and builds creativity and digital skills. It’s layered and with the big screen as the end result, the outcome is well worth the time and effort.
Importantly, I’m so proud of each and every student for what they accomplish together – such a project as the one below doesn’t happen in isolation.
It’s a magical journey and is a constant reminder of why I have the best job in the world.
P.S. Thanks to Elaine Hine (from the Ministry of Education – Student Achievement Division) who in collaborating and sharing in conversation about “Assessment For, As and Of Learning” shared the phrasing that “Assessment is Learning.” This notation is very much the perfect articulation for the work I try to do with my students and which I found so inspiring.